What Is That Dirt Plug On Your Lawn?


Welcome back to the Wonderful World of Weed Man.  Again, my name is Brian, and I will be your guide!  This week is our 9th installment of our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series.  We appreciate your continued readership.  It is important to us that we provide value in educating our customers, or to the average homeowner who loves taking care of their own lawn.  As always, if you have questions or would like to make a suggestion on a topic you would like to learn about, let us know in the comment section.

This week will be a primer on Aeration!  Mechanical Core Aeration is pretty straight forward; however, we do get frequently asked questions about the service.  Here are the top FAQ we answer.

What is it?  Mechanical Core Aeration is the process of removing plugs of grass and soil (cores) from your lawn so air, water, and nutrients are able to settle deeper into the soil.  Most homeowners who are familiar with aeration recognize the thousands of little soil plugs that are left on the lawn after the service has been completed.  This can be somewhat unsightly, but it is best to leave the plugs on the top of the lawn.  The good news is they won’t stay very long on your lawn.  When they dry out they will be pulverized by your mower and will break back down into the soil and become a top dressing for the lawn.

Why do I need to do it? Simply stated, it can vastly improve the health and beauty of your lawn.  The grass root system that is present in your lawn needs several things to survive and thrive.  Water, nutrients, and air.  Over time, the soil can begin to compact.  The more compact the soil is, the more difficult it is for water, fertilizer, and air to get to the root system.  Aeration will relieve that compaction resulting in a lawn that is more resistant to diseases, insects, drought and heat stress.  Pulling out core plugs will also improve drainage, air circulation, and fertilizer movement in the soil.  As a result, you have less water runoff – which in turn generally means less water usage over the summer.  All around, a more beautiful lawn!

Can I do it myself?  Yes, you can.  We do have some customers who own an aerator.  However, if you don’t have the budget or space for an aerator, you can rent them from a local equipment rental store.  Some considerations you want to address before renting an aerator is the cost and hassle associated with it.  There generally is a per hour fee, or an all-day fee.  Either option can be costly.  You will also need a vehicle that can tow a small trailer, as aerators tend to be a large piece of equipment.  It’s not something you can stuff into a van or small car.  IF you pick it up by yourself, you would be hard pressed to get the aerator in the back of a truck.  They are larger than a lawn mower, and are significantly heavier.  Aerators are typically self-propelled as well.  With such a heavy machine it can be very difficult to handle, and can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.   Usually with all the time, effort, and cost associated with renting and aerator, it can be comparable to hiring someone to do it for you.

If you do hire someone keep in mind a few factors when making your decision.  Do they own their own equipment or is it rented?  Are they maintaining their own equipment and investing in quality equipment?  What kind of guarantee do they offer in regards to broken sprinkler heads?  All good questions to consider when looking to hire someone to aerate your lawn.

When should I do it?  Spring or Fall.  Aerating your lawn can be stressful for it.  Spring or Fall is a great time to do this as the temperatures and weather are conducive to help it deal with the stress of aeration.  The summer is definitely a time to avoid aerating as the lawn is already trying to deal with the stresses of heat, drought, disease and insects.  It would not be good to add more difficulty to the mix.

I like to dethatch, is that ok?  We are not big fans of dethatching.  If you ask us if we recommend it, we will say no.  Is there a time and place for dethatching?  Yes, however we won’t offer the service, and it is very limited circumstances when it would be needed.  Dethatching is the process of removing and excess buildup of thatch in the lawn.  Thatch is the layer of dead and living grass shoots.  It’s a layer that is decaying, but there are circumstances that can contribute and excess buildup of thatch.  If the thatch layer is too thick it can restrict the flow of water, air, and nutrients much like the soil being too compact.  Basically the thatch layer gets built up quicker than it can decay and be broken down naturally.

The reason we do not recommend dethatching is that it is VERY VERY VERY stressful for your lawn.  It also does not resolve the root cause of the thatch buildup in the first place.  If that doesn’t get addressed you will have to continually do it, and over time you will have a thin unhealthy lawn from the stress of the application and from the root cause of thatch buildup not being corrected.  Generally speaking, aeration will provide the same benefits of dethatching and more, with a lower level of stress to your lawn.  Aerating will also be significantly cheaper than dethatching as well.  It will also help to resolve the root cause of the thatch buildup occurring in the first place.

The only time we would recommend a dethatching is if the layer of thatch is so thick an aeration would not help resolve it.  By aerating you are helping to restore an imbalance to the decay process of the grass roots.  Sometimes even with an aeration there will still be too much thatch to try and break down naturally.

So where does the excess thatch come from?  It can occur for a variety of reasons, but essentially when you water the lawn, the water stays at the root level instead of moving down deeper into the soil.  This can be caused by a compact soil.  This can also be caused by watering for a shorter period of time frequently vs a longer time less frequently.  So if you water 30 minutes every day vs 60 minutes 2-3 times a week.  Both a compact soil and short frequent watering result in the water just sitting at the root level, which forces the roots to grow and fill in at that top surface level of the soil.  They won’t be broken down very quickly and this causes the thatch to buildup.

Whether you aerate your lawn yourself, or you have someone do it for you, make sure it happens consistently.  We recommend every year or every other year depending on the lawn.

If you have more questions about aerating or want someone to do it for you, give us a call.  Let us help you. 208-888-9911 www.weedmanboise.com #wecareforyourlawn.




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